Friday, March 02, 2007

Why We Must Struggle Against All Forms of Oppression

A comment posted by brownfemipower on her own blog entry: Denying people food is a Male Thing.

ONe of the incidences that I had the pleasure (not) of participating in with a white feminist involved her showing me pics of an Afghani woman who had twin children, one boy and one girl, and she feed the boy breast milk and the girl watered down formula. She didn't think that she had enough milk to feed two kids, so she gave the girl formula–and of course, she’s freaking poverty stricken and can't come up with enough water to make the formula–and of course, when you're starving, what do you do, but portion out and restrict the food you do have? So anyway, the girl wound up dying.

The white feminist I was talking to was positive that this horrific thing happened because Afghani culture values men. Well, it's true that in a patriarchal culture, men are valued. But when you are a single afghani mother who can't forage for food on your own and you’re starving to death isn't there also a very real legitimate reason that you value male life? Do we really think that a well off Afghani woman in Canada that has plenty of food is going to starve her daughter to death and lavish breast milk on a son?

Desperation *creates* and/or *reinforces* gender imbalances–many times, those gender imbalances didn’t exist prior to the introduction of "desperation". Look in Iraq, for example–women are now confined to their houses in ways that they weren’t under saddamn. Is a little girl that requires food but can do nothing to help *get* the food really going to be valued?

and then, really, in the case of this woman, it really pissed me off that this white woman was decrying the sexism, but NOT the fact that a mother has to water down formula to make it last longer or deny her child all together because she simply doesn't have water. Those conditions of extreme horrific poverty were created BY US and the USSR. Do we have no responsibility at ALL in that child's death?

I think this anecdote illustrates nicely the connection between patriarchy and economic injustice. All forms of domination and oppression are connected, and ALL have to be struggled against. That is why Condoleeza Rice represents nothing for our struggles: as a black woman she has been invited into the "other side" of the racist, patriarchal, classist divide. That does not eliminate the divide. Frustrating: white wealthy women (who can choose to be stay-at-home moms because of their priviledged social position) and support right-wing parties and say feminism is dead. Grrrr...

1 comment:

Paul said...

As usual, great post.

I think your quote there posits an interesting question. In it, it says "Desperation *creates* and/or *reinforces* gender imbalances–many times." Thus, since it can't both create and exacerbate or reinforce already existing gender imbalances, the question is which does it do? I think this is a very important question not only for feminists but for progressives in general who are interested in seeing the end of all forms of domination.

If we accept that that it creates gender imbalances, then a more classical Marxist-feminist approach to the patriarchy as a corollary institution of bourgeoisie social institutions of dominance would seem to be appropriate. If, on the other hand, we accept that these gender imbalances existed prior to economics-induced desperation then a Marxist approach to social change would be incomlete at best. Thus I think your quote actually strikes at the very heart of the question which progressives must ask themselves and is thus extremely pragmatic rather than just academic.